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National Museum of Natural History Species of the Day Collection

Last updated 11 months ago

This Collection contains a complete archive of all creatures featured on the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History's "Species of the Day" feature on its home page ( since 20 April 2010. The sort field contains the month and day of the last time a creature was shown. Those shown more than a year ago have '999' in the sort field.

To nominate a species, please leave us a comment in the Newsfeed with your suggestion, including why you think it would make a great Species of the Day! If you can paste a link to the species you are interested in, that would also be helpful.

  • 18200_88_88 Animalia > Parulidae

    Mniotilta varia

    Black-and-white Warbler

    The Black-and-white Warbler, which breeds across much of Canada and the eastern United States, is unusual among warblers in its habit of creeping up and down tree trunks and along limbs.

    Sort value: 12.03

  • 88053_88_88 Animalia > Ctenophora

    Mnemiopsis leidyi

    Sea Walnut

    This ctenophore is native to the western Atlantic, but has been widely established as an ecologically disruptive invasive species in European seas.

    Sort value: 999

  • 58670_88_88 Animalia > Thomisidae

    Misumena vatia

    Flower Spider

    These crab spiders hang around flowers waiting for appealing prey to appear within reach; they can slowly change their color to blend in better with the host flower.

    Sort value: 01.24

  • 87752_88_88 Animalia > Phocidae

    Mirounga leonina

    Southern Elephant Seal

    Although Southern Elephant Seal populations suffered from extensive hunting historically, numbers were never reduced to the extreme degree endured by the closely related Northern Elephant Seal and as a consequence the Southern Elephant Seal has suffered less loss of genetic variation.

    Sort value: 999

  • 70553_88_88 Animalia > Phocidae

    Mirounga angustirostris

    Northern Elephant Seal

    The Northern Elephant Seal was hunted nearly to extinction in the late 1800s; the 100,000 to 200,000 individuals alive today are all descended from possibly fewer than 100 surviving individuals at the dawn of the 20th century, a classic “population bottleneck”.

    Sort value: 999

  • 77941_88_88 Plantae > Myrtaceae

    Metrosideros polymorpha

    'Ohi'a Lehua

    Ohi'a Lehua is the most common native tree species in the Hawaiian Islands.

    Sort value: 11.20

  • 25402_88_88 Rosaceae

    Mespilus germanica


    Medlar is native to western Asia and possibly southeastern Europe, although it spread throughout Europe long ago.

    Sort value: 10.13

  • 57395_88_88 Mermithidae

    Mermis nigrescens

    Larvae of this nematode (roundworm) are parasites of orthopteran insects such as grasshoppers; they burrow out of the host to reach the soil, where they molt into adults.

    Sort value: 999

  • 08531_88_88 cellular organisms > Mentheae

    Mentha x piperita


    Peppermint is a hybrid resulting from a cross of Water Mint and Spearmint.

    Sort value: 11.26

  • 33083_88_88 Animalia > Phasianidae

    Meleagris ocellata

    Ocellated Turkey

    The Ocellated Turkey is a close (but less widely known) relative of the Wild Turkey found in southeastern Mexico and northern Guatemala and Belize.

    Sort value: 999

  • 50311_88_88 Animalia > Phasianidae

    Meleagris gallopavo

    Wild Turkey

    In the United States, turkey dinner has long been an integral component of Thanksgiving holiday celebrations.

    Sort value: 999

  • 20505_88_88 Acrididae

    Melanoplus spretus

    Rocky Mountain Locust

    The Rocky Mountain Locust was a devastating crop pest in North America until the late 1800s, when it went extinct rather quickly and mysteriously.

    Sort value: 999

  • 02009_88_88 Animalia > Picidae

    Melanerpes erythrocephalus

    Red-headed Woodpecker

    The Red-headed Woodpecker, which is found across much of the United States and adjacent Canada (although it is uncommon over much of its range), has an entirely red head.

    Sort value: 01.15

  • 55162_88_88 Animalia > Picidae

    Melanerpes carolinus

    Red-bellied Woodpecker

    The reddish patch on the belly of the Red-bellied Woodpecker is not typically visible in the field, but the red on the crown and nape of the male (and nape of the female) are very conspicuous; the breeding range of this species has been extending northward for many years.

    Sort value: 01.16

  • 08007_88_88

    Megalopta genalis

    Unlike the vast majority of bee species, which are strongly diurnal, these bees forage just before dawn and just after sunset.

    Sort value: 999

  • 14101_88_88

    Megaloprepus caerulatus

    Giant Helicopter Damselfly

    Adult Giant Helicopter Damselflies feed on orb-weaving spiders, which they pluck from their webs in the forest understory.

    Sort value: 999

  • 19194_88_88

    Megacopta cribraria

    Bean Plataspid

    This plataspid bug is native to the Old World, but since at least 2009 has been spreading through the southeastern United States, where its taste for leguminous plants may help control invasive Kudzu, but could also harm native species and important agricultural crops such as Soybean.

    Sort value: 05.02

  • 08287_88_88 Tettigoniidae

    Meconema thalassinum

    Drumming Katydid

    This unusual little katydid (or bush-cricket) communicates by drumming on leaves rather than generating sounds by rubbing its wings together as most katydids and crickets do.

    Sort value: 999

  • 40371_88_88 Animalia > Agalmatidae

    Marrus orthocanna

    Marrus orthocanna is a deep-water Arctic colonial jellyfish; the gas-filled float is yellow-orange and the swimming units are translucent with bright red canals.

    Sort value: 999

  • 19551_88_88 Rodentia > Sciuridae

    Marmota monax

    Woodchuck Or Groundhog

    According to a tradition going back at least to the mid-19th century in the United States (and brought to the attention of a much broader audience by the 1993 film Groundhog Day), if a Groundhog emerges from its burrow on February 2 and sees its shadow, it will return to the burrow for another six weeks of winter; if the weather is overcast, it will emerge and winter will soon turn to spring.

    Sort value: 999

  • 41971_88_88 Animalia > Sciuridae

    Marmota marmota

    Alpine Marmot

    The Alpine Marmot of Europe belongs to the same genus as the North American Groundhog (or Woodchuck), Marmota monax, a familiar resident of Canada and the eastern United States.

    Sort value: 02.02

  • 96658_88_88 Mantophasmatodea



    This enigmatic group of African insects was first discovered by scientists in 2002.

    Sort value: 999

  • 08049_88_88



    After hatching, the larvae of many mantispid species locate and develop within spider egg sacs, feeding on the eggs.

    Sort value: 999

  • 47174_88_88 Animalia > Manidae

    Smutsia temminckii

    Ground Pangolin

    The toothless (but armored!) Temminck's Ground Pangolin uses its powerful forelimbs to tear open ant and termite mounds, then captures the fleeing insects by flicking its long tongue in and out.

    Sort value: 999

  • 24493_88_88 Animalia > Manidae



    The eight species of pangolins, which are found only in Asia and Africa, can use their powerful tails as effective weapons in defense, but they can also curl their well-armored bodies into a thoroughly protected ball.

    Sort value: 10.04

  • 54529_88_88 Plantae > Sapotaceae

    Manilkara zapota


    The Sapodilla or Sapote, is a tropical evergreen tree in the Sapotaceae (sapota family) native to and long cultivated by the Aztecs and Mayas in Mexico and Central America for its pear-flavored edible fruit and for its latex, chicle, the original source of chewing gum.

    Sort value: 11.14

  • 69134_88_88 Plantae > Euphorbiaceae

    Manihot esculenta


    Cassava is native to South America, but is now grown in tropical and sub-tropical areas worldwide for its edible starchy roots (tubers), which are a major food source in large areas of Africa, South America, and Oceania.

    Sort value: 999

  • 91914_88_88 Plantae > Anacardiaceae

    Mangifera indica


    The Mango originated in southern Asia, but is now cultivated and naturalized widely in the tropics and subtropics.

    Sort value: 999

  • 20179_88_88

    Malus domestica


    The Orchard Apple originated in western Asia and is now one of the most widely cultivated fruit trees in the world.

    Sort value: 999

  • 75520_88_88 Lasiocampidae

    Malacosoma americanum

    Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth

    The silk tents constructed in the crotches of tree branches in the spring by cohorts of newly hatched Eastern Tent Caterpillars are a familiar sight in eastern North America.

    Sort value: 999

  • 94952_88_88 Animalia > Bovidae



    The very small African antelopes known as dikdiks have relatively large eyes and ears, a prominent crest, and a fur-covered nose that is enlarged into a proboscis in some species and functions as part of a cooling system (dikdik species without this well developed system may stay cool by being mainly nocturnal).

    Sort value: 12.20

  • 26311_88_88 Animalia > Macroscelidea


    Elephant Shrews Or Sengis

    Despite the name, elephant shrews are not closely related to shrews--in fact, they are members of the Afrotheria and therefore more closely related to elephants than to shrews.

    Sort value: 10.06

  • 50576_88_88 Animalia > Macropodidae

    Macropus rufus

    Red Kangaroo

    The Red Kangaroo is the largest living marsupial.

    Sort value: 09.01

  • 01191_88_88 Sphingidae

    Macroglossum stellatarum

    Hummingbird Hawk-moth

    This species is one of several large nectar-feeding hawk moths that bear a striking (if mainly behavioral) resemblance to hummingbirds.

    Sort value: 999

  • 35318_88_88 Plantae > Moraceae

    Maclura pomifera (Rafinesque) C. K. Schneider


    The large, striking fruit of the Osage-orange (which is in the mulberry family, not closely related to oranges) is actually a ball of many small fruits packed together and is filled with a sticky white latex.

    Sort value: 02.04

  • 52992_88_88 Animalia > Accipitridae

    Macheiramphus alcinus

    Bat Hawk

    The Bat Hawk, which is found in both sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, hunts largely at dusk (and even through moonlit nights), feeding mainly on small insectivorous bats.

    Sort value: 999

  • 50300_88_88 Plantae > Proteaceae

    Macadamia integrifolia


    Although native to Australia, Macadamia Nut trees are often associated with Hawaii because they were exported there in the 1880s and Hawaii dominated global production of the nuts from the 1930s until the 1980s, at one time producing 90% of the world's commercial supply.

    Sort value: 11.21

  • 98643_88_88

    Lysmata amboinensis

    Skunk Cleaner Shrimp

    This species has a very unusual sexual system: individuals initially develop and reproduce as males, but then develop female reproductive organs to become hermaphrodites and function as both males and females.

    Sort value: 07.24

  • 47654_88_88 Metazoa > Arthropoda

    Lucanus cervus

    Stag Beetle

    This stag beetle is found throughout Europe, and East Asia as far as Japan, although it is rare or declining in some countries.

    Sort value: 07.13

  • 18960_88_88 Actinopterygii > Oneirodidae

    Lophodolos acanthognathus

    Whalehead Dreamer

    The Whalehead Dreamer lures prey to its mouth with bioluminescence emitted from its esca, a fleshy structure that serves as a lure; in contrast to most bioluminescent deep-sea fish, the light produced by ceratioid anglerfishes (the group including the Whalehead Dreamer) is not endogenous, but rather is produced by bacteria in the esca. It is known from fewer than 160 specimens.

    Sort value: 11.12

  • 08076_88_88


    Several species of Loligo squids are the targets of important fisheries.

    Sort value: 999

  • 52921_88_88 Plantae > Arecaceae

    Lodoicea maldivica


    The Double Coconut, endemic to the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, produces the largest seeds in the plant kingdom.

    Sort value: 999

  • 58424_88_88

    Locusta migratoria

    Migratory Locust

    The Migratory Locust is the most widespread locust species and the only species in its genus; it occurs throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

    Sort value: 999

  • 34554_88_88

    Littoraria angulifera

    Mangrove Periwinkle

    Populations of this mangrove-dwelling snail from the coasts of Texas and Florida (U.S.A.) to Brazil and from the coast of West Africa appear truly to belong to the same species, despite the enormous expanse of ocean separating them.

    Sort value: 999

  • 65032_88_88 Penaeidae

    Penaeus vannamei

    Pacific White Shrimp, White Shrimp

    This species is widely farmed; marine conservationists view the farming methods generally used in the United States as relatively environmentally benign, but in some parts of the world production of these prawns has very negative environmental impacts.

    Sort value: 11.05

  • 44893_88_88 Plantae > Lauraceae

    Lindera benzoin

    Northern Spicebush

    Like many members of the family Lauraceae, Spicebush, a common understory shrub in forests of the eastern United States, has leaves that are strongly aromatic when crushed, a distinctive feature in its range.

    Sort value: 03.12

  • 09239_88_88 Polemoniaceae

    Linanthus parryae (A. Gray) Greene


    This tiny California flower has played a large role in debates about the evolutionary forces maintaining genetic variation within and among populations.

    Sort value: 999

  • 79072_88_88 Animalia > Limidae


    Limatula are tiny bivalve mollusks in the file shell family that are found in ocean sediments throughout the world.

    Sort value: 999

  • 91645_88_88 Animalia > Atherinopsidae

    Leuresthes tenuis

    California Grunion

    The California Grunion is famous for its remarkable springtime spawning behavior that takes place not in the water, but at extreme high tides on sandy beaches on nights just after the full moon and the new moon.

    Sort value: 999

  • 81906_88_88 Animalia > Laridae

    Leucophaeus atricilla

    Laughing Gull

    Laughing Gulls are among the most commonly encountered gulls over much of their range.

    Sort value: 04.04